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Review: Nanna-stasia at Girls School

Review by Hannah Fredriksson

As a girl who grew up in the 90s I was a huge fan of the 1998 animated film Anastasia, so naturally when I saw the poster featuring the familiar leading character I knew I absolutely had to see this show. Directed by Marcel Blanch-de Wilt, Nanna-stasia is Eleanor Stankiewicz’s ‘headcanon’ story of her grandmother’s childhood, growing up in a turbulent time in Lithuania during World War II. Though her own knowledge of her grandmother’s story is patchy, much like the movie she has taken creative license to fill in the gaps with whimsical adventures that she imagined as a child. Eleanor also stars as the show’s only actor, with a warm and welcoming presence engaging with the audience before the show has even begun.

As is the case with many Fringe Festival shows the stage had a minimal setup, with a keyboard in one corner and a small breakfast table in the other, dressed with a red and white tablecloth and a tea set with a colourful crocheted tea cosy. It made room for the mind to imagine a dated, homely kitchen around it, an image that would resonate with many as being comforting and familiar. A red scarf was draped on one of the chairs, indicating the presence of someone long departed. Despite the simple staging, Eleanor’s physical movements were able to transport the audience from a cosy kitchen to a busy market place, a sunny boat ride, and even an ominous war camp.

There were points in the show where Eleanor quickly had to switch between acting as up to three different characters in a scene, which sometimes was a little bit confusing but showed good range. Though the majority of the story is set in mid-century Lithuania, the accents she used for each character were wildly different and not necessarily contextual, however this is forgivable as it is also true of the movie Anastasia where the main characters have American accents despite being from Russia. 

I was delighted to hear some of my favourite songs from the movie Anastasia performed in the show, though sometimes there were issues with pitch. Eleanor nailed the soaring parts of the songs however, and these moments were very moving. There was one point where keyboard player Kirsten Symczycz sings something to do with Rasputin, however with no microphone it was difficult to hear exactly what was being sung. The music (and lack thereof) played an important role in separating fact from fiction, with the real, heavy moments of the story being underscored by sobering silence.

Despite many moments of exceptional comedic timing, the production had some very touching moments that hit themes of how we treat immigrants and the elderly. 

Disco Turtle’s production of Nanna-stasia is a heart warming show that will make you laugh and also sit in quiet contemplation. Its references to the movie Anastasia make it feel wonderfully familiar and comforting. You can’t help but leave feeling like you should call your nanna and let her know she’s loved.

Image Supplied

All opinions and thoughts expressed within reviews on Theatre Travels are those of the writer and not of the company at large.


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